Jan 29, 2015
Triad Risk Starts Early

Those hoping to prevent female athletes from developing the symptoms of female athlete triad syndrome—disordered eating, menstrual irregularities, and low bone mass—would do well to focus education efforts on high school girls, according to a study published in the February 2006 issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. San Diego State University researchers examined 170 female high school athletes in eight sports for the study, and discovered that 20 percent of them exhibited at least one aspect of the triad.

The study reports that 18 percent of its sample showed disordered eating patterns, while 24 percent had menstrual irregularities. Twenty-two percent had low bone mass, with girls in sports that emphasize lean body mass at a greater risk than those in sports that include jumping or weight bearing.

“We were surprised at the fairly large percentage of girls with low bone density,” Jeanne Nichols, PhD, SDSU Professor of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences and co-author of the study, told the San Diego State Universe. Nichols added that this finding is particularly troubling because women develop 98 percent of their total bone mass by about age 20.

While fewer than two percent of the participants met the criteria for all three elements of the triad, the authors are concerned that the prevalence of individual symptoms at such a young age puts them at risk for developing the full triad over time. “The results are a wake-up call for sports medicine and family physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and high school coaches who work with female athletes,” co-author Mitchell Rauh, PhD, PT, MPH, Professor of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences at SDSU and its Graduate School of Public Health, told the San Diego State Universe. “These conditions may happen earlier than realized and these professionals should start to push and encourage positive behaviors now.”

The study, “Prevalence of the Female Athlete Triad Syndrome Among High School Athletes,” can be accessed by going to: http://archpedi.ama-assn.org. Click on “past issues,” then click on “February, 2006.”

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